New tools to map sea-level rise

Coastal municipalities will be able to identify future impacts of climate change and sea level rise using new maps launched today by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE).

Developed in partnership with the Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information, the maps use the highest resolution elevation data currently available.

The new tool highlights low-lying areas in Melbourne, Sydney, Hunter and Cental Coast NSW, Perth and South East Queensland.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, said coastal areas were a “priority for adaptation action”.

“The maps provide useful initial information to decision-makers to prepare for potential risks from rising sea levels in coastal areas,” Mr Combet said.

The inundation maps identify coastal areas that are vulnerable to one of three sea level rise scenarios for the period leading up to the year 2100. The scenarios are low sea-level rise (0.5m), which is likely to be unavoidable; medium sea-level rise (0.8m); and high sea-level rise (1.1m), which is the high-end risk identified in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Mr Combet said governments would need to prepare for the impacts of climate change on new and existing developments.

“Early engagement with communities in these areas will be critical to the development of workable adaptation solutions for local areas, so they are able to avoid risk,” he said.

“Where this is not possible, this engagement will help ensure they are as prepared as
possible to cope with climate change impacts as they arise.”

According to the DCCEE, the maps are a communication tool and should not substitute detailed studies on sea-level rise. The maps do not take into account local factors, such as existing sea walls, changes in tidal flows and vulnerability to erosion.

A pilot sea-level rise virtualisation tool and an elevation data web portal have also been developed to allow government agencies to identify vulnerable areas.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), which was involved in the consultation process for the development of the maps, welcomed today’s announcement.

ALGA president Genia McCaffery said the new tools would help local government address its concerns about the threat of inundation and the impact of erosion.

"Local government is committed to working in partnership with the Commonwealth to address climate change issues,” Cr McCaffery said.

“Our role in land management, planning and community services means councils and shires need tools to help make long-term decisions in the best interests of our communities.”

The maps will be made available at

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